Teenage pilots get chance to soar with CAP
By Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 13, 2014
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A regular high school student, but a pilot outside of the classroom walls: for Civil Air Patrol cadets, that's just another day.
CAP is an Air Force sponsored, all-volunteer organization organization with more 60,000 members, approximately 50 percent adults and 50 percent cadets between the ages of 12-21. The three main missions of the CAP program are emergency services, aerospace education, and the cadet program. The Cadet Program focuses on leadership using the US Air Force as its model and focuses on leadership and aerospace education.
Buckley's Mile High Cadet Squadron has 25 cadets and 19 senior leaders. The squadron meets every Tuesday night for formation and an educational class.
"The reason I joined is I want to be a pilot," said CAP Cadet 1st Lt. McKade Clark. "We actually get free flight lessons. We get to go up and take the controls and fly around for a little bit. I thought to myself, 'I get to fly planes. Are you kidding me?'"
The cadets in the program have big dreams, with many striving to enroll at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
"About 10 percent of the entrants at the Air Force Academy come from Civil Air Patrol ranks," said Maj. Sam C. Turner, Mile High CAP senior leader.
The program doesn't just bring enrichment to the cadet's lives, it's provides a safe place to grow and learn.
"We're a family," said Maj. Judy Huff, Mile High CAP squadron commander. I care about them. With the bullying and the pressure of school, I think we need a family element, and that's what we are."
Like any strong family, the senior leaders act as mentors, bringing valuable lessons to the table.
"My primary role is drug reduction," said CAP 2nd Lt. John E. Goodman, Mile High CAP 2nd Lt. "When I come in to teach my classes, I don't just come in and say, 'Don't smoke. Don't drink.' I try to leave in their minds some basic principles on how to live life."
The CAP program also gives teens opportunities they may not have be otherwise able to experience.
"They've gotten a chance to meet the dogs from security forces," Huff said. "We've had the burn trailer. We've had helicopter rides. I even brought in the (Special Weapons and Tactics) team once."
Clark's favorite memory was with the 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dogs.
"I even got to get in the training suit where the dogs chase after you!" Clark said.
The cadets also learn about unique subjects during the classes. The program's most recent class: how to survive on the moon.
While there are many remarkable opportunities, according to Turner, watching the cadets grow and develop is the most fulfilling part.
"Hearing from them later after they've come back from boot camp or hearing that they're going to the Academy, that's the best; knowing we've helped them in their endeavor." Turner said.
Aside from the many benefits of the cadet program, the senior leaders agree joining CAP was one of the best decisions, providing them a chance to give back and pass on their experience and knowledge of the military to the younger generation.
"When you're here, you're not just talking to a recruiter," Goodman said. "You're talking to a vast array of people that have been in the military. They'll help guide you into a career that's going be substantial and fulfilling."
Goodman has nothing but praise for CAP's unique and exciting program.
"Where else would I get a chance to be in an aircraft and working on a real mission?" Goodman said. "Civil Air Patrol is one of the Air Force's best-kept secrets."